One of the things that I admire about elite athletes is their ability to try again after having faced troubles and failure.
The truth is that we are all going to have to face some trouble throughout our lives (John 16:33). With trouble often comes discouragement and disappointment.
While life can make us face more challenging things than winning or losing a game, we can learn from these athletes how to answer an important question many of us ask ourselves: how do we fight against discouragement and choose to believe again in the face of disappointment?
It is important to note that discouragement can have a wide variety of sources, some of our own doing, others that are completely out of our control.
We are not saying that God makes trouble happen in our lives, which causes us to be disappointed and discouraged just for the sake of Him teaching us a lesson. Instead, as life happens to us all, if we can learn to build a close relationship with Him, He can teach us to overcome our discouragement and believe again.
My biggest temptation after having faced disappointment is to stop giving my heart. While I still might physically be present in my daily routines and responsibilities, I get to points where I choose to go through the motions and be apathetic. The potential pain of further disappointment trumps my desire to hope again.
When we learn to walk with God, we can choose to be hopeful despite the disappointments we face. When we do so, we start believing that things will turn out for our best and we can learn how to persevere and even have purpose through our discouragement.
The LORD is close to those who have suffered disappointment. He saves those who are discouraged.
Psalm 34:18 ERV
As the Scripture teaches us, we have an opportunity to experience closeness to God when we have suffered disappointment and see him save us when we undergo discouragement. This can inspire us to see challenging times differently – as an opportunity for growth.
Whether we have lost relationships or loved ones, have an unfulfilled desire of wanting to build a family, haven’t achieved a career/position we had hoped for, or have any other disappointments in life, we can learn to believe again. Here are Bible verses about discouragement and learning to believe again.
Change our mindset
So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up.
Hebrews 12:3 CEV
While we all go through difficult times, perspective is something that can help us. When we look at Jesus‘ life and see the amount of pain he had to experience, it can give us hope.
On the contrary, when we don’t focus on Him, we can be tempted to compare our lives with those around us, which can accentuate our discouragement. We might start believing that by this time in our lives, we should have accomplished and achieved more. This can lead us to become envious and leave us even more discouraged than before.
As the Scripture teaches, one of the big temptations that we face when we get discouraged is to give up. Discouragement can come out in different ways. Here are some signs that may show us we’ve given up:
Like the Hebrews 12 scripture says, when our minds are set on Jesus, we see what He was able to overcome, and can choose to believe that we can do the same if we get to know Him more intimately. Getting to know God means learning about his character, his purpose, and his deep love for us.
The Bible is a great way to get to know Jesus and learn from how He lived His life. The more we understand Jesus, the more we can get to know God (John 1:18 NLT)
Pause and reflect
- What do you turn to when you give up in the face of discouragement?
- What specific discouragement in your life do you need perspective from Jesus for?
Realize it’s bigger than us
Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.
Galatians 6:9 NASB
Discouragement can often happen when we are fighting to do good but it doesn’t necessarily have the impact or outcome we’ve expected. Maybe we’ve tried to make a difference in a friend’s life, a family member’s life, or in our community but feel like our efforts haven’t made a dent in inspiring others.
One thing we should never lose is our willingness to do good. The Bible teaches here that even though results from our actions don’t show instantly, they will have an impact in the long run.
This world needs people focused on doing good now more than ever. With the social unrest, pandemic crisis, political polarization and constant dread that we are getting bombarded with by the media, choosing to do good for someone else will leave a lasting impact.
Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as God has shown us mercy, we do not become discouraged.
2 Corinthians 4:1 NET
When we think outside of ourselves, it helps us to not be discouraged. In this scripture, Paul is talking to the Corinthian church and reminds them of the privilege of having been given this ministry, which is a message of hope, faith, and forgiveness that they were called to pass on to others.
God places specific people around us so that we can influence and inspire them to build a relationship with Him. We have all been given specific gifts, talents, and experiences that can allow us to reach people that others can’t.
Having this in mind gives us hope and gives purpose to our suffering and discouragement. If we fight not to be overcome by discouragement, we can inspire others to get to know God.
Pause and reflect
- What gifts and talents has God given you?
- How can you use them to inspire and influence others around you to get to know God?
Reflect on who God is making us into
 But you have forgotten that the Scriptures say to God’s children, “When the Lord punishes you, don’t make light of it, and when he corrects you, don’t be discouraged.  The Lord corrects the people he loves and disciplines those he calls his own.”
Hebrews 12:5-6 CEV
Sometimes discouragement doesn’t just come from circumstances or trying to do good and it not working out. It can also come from our own mistakes, sins, and flaws. I have had many times in my life when seeing the weight of my failures and impact of my sins on others has led to discouragement.
This scripture is one that has helped me during many of those instances. Having a three-year-old daughter gives me a new perspective reading this passage. Like any other toddler, she needs correction and training. Even though she doesn’t always understand or enjoy the training, I know that we are doing it for her own good.
Similarly, God, who has much more care and wisdom than any of us, trains, corrects and disciplines us. He does it for our own good.
 Put up with hard times. God uses them to train you. He is treating you as his children. What children are not trained by their parents? […]  No training seems pleasant at the time. In fact, it seems painful. But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace. It does this for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:7,11 NIRV
Most experts in their field – whether they are athletes, academics, or writers – are willing to go through training to master their craft.
Similarly, when we embrace God’s training for our lives, it helps us to not become discouraged because our focus is on what the pain and training produce: godliness and peace.
Pause and reflect
- What training are we going through in our lives and how are we reacting to it?
- Who is God helping us to become through our discipline and training?
Remember our purpose
We knew our enemies’ intent was to intimidate us into stopping our work. They reasoned, “These Jews will stop rebuilding out of fear and discouragement. Progress will grind to a halt.” Instead I renewed my dedication, strengthened my hands.
Nehemiah 6:9 VOICE
Nehemiah had a great task before him – rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem. He knew it was a very important project that would please God and help the Israelites. Remembering his purpose helped him to fight against fear, opposition and discouragement.
When we are up against things that make us feel out of control, insecure, and afraid, we can become discouraged and hopeless that things will turn out for the best. I think this can describe how we all felt at some point during the pandemic – “When will the uncertainty end?”
When we feel fear and discouragement, we can want to quit and give up on any progress or work we’ve been making on changing or growing. This scripture shows us that fear and discouragement can stop us from doing two things: rebuilding, and making progress, both of which are meant to benefit the lives of those around us. We all have people around us who have suffered loss.
Whether it be loss of job, marriage, or loved ones, many are in need to see their lives being rebuilt. When we choose to find new strength from our relationship with God, He will use us to change the lives of those around us.
What is inspiring about Nehemiah’s example is that in the midst of facing discouragement, he chose to ask God for help and he stayed focused on the purpose and goal at hand.
Pause and reflect
- Whose life can God use us to help rebuild?
- What areas do we need to ask God for more help in the midst of our discouragement?
- How can focusing on our purpose help us overcome our discouragement?
Keep listening to God
6 Therefore, tell the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord. I will bring you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians, I will rescue you from the hard labor they impose, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you to myself for a people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you to the land I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob—and I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’” 9 Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and hard labor.
Exodus 6:6-9 NET
Have you ever felt so discouraged that it didn’t matter what encouraging words you heard, you felt immovable in your negative thoughts? This is how the Israelites felt even after hearing God’s promise to rescue them and give them a brand new land and life.
They had been burdened by hard labor for a long time, and things had gone from bad to worse when Moses first came to help them. I’m sure they felt afraid to hope that things would change. However, what they didn’t realize is that their discouragement was blinding them from the support and love that God was trying to show them.
When we get to the level of discouragement that we stop listening to God, we are unable to see the vision God has for our lives and how he lovingly wants to guide and lead us down the right path.
I remember a point in my life where we experienced a big health scare with one of our family members. After rushing to the hospital and being in the ER waiting room, I was terrified, discouraged, and felt helpless. And yet in that moment, I chose to look up scriptures to help me fight my discouragement.
Choosing to turn to the Bible at that instant instead of giving in to my fears and discouragement helped tremendously. The Bible was able to reassure me and give me faith that God will work things out for our best.
Pause and reflect
- Do you read your Bible more or less when you are discouraged?
- What scriptures can you focus on to help you believe that God still has the best plan for you?
Take courage, my soul! Do you remember those times (but how could you ever forget them!) when you led a great procession to the Temple on festival days, singing with joy, praising the Lord? Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again praise him for his help.
Psalm 42:4 TLB
One of the most debilitating things when we feel discouraged is that we can lose our sense of hope and stop believing that things will ever be better. This is something people with serious injuries or chronic health challenges can often relate with. If we only listen to our emotions, they can deceive us into thinking that the way we feel now will never change or improve.
As the psalmist teaches us in this passage, hope is a choice. It is possible to be sad and discouraged while also choosing to have hope and faith. The emotion of discouragement doesn’t have to stop us from making the choice of faith. This is possible only if we remember God, who He is, what He’s already done, and how He will keep coming through for us in the future.
Pause and reflect
- What are times when we’ve seen God come through in our lives and help us overcome what seemed impossible?
- How can remembering and reflecting on these things help us overcome our discouragement?
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they should always pray and never become discouraged.
Luke 18:1 GNT
This scripture teaches us that one of the best ways to fight discouragement is through prayer. Prayer is where we can be honest with God about our discouragements, our desires, our emotions, and our sins. Jesus taught his disciples that they needed to keep praying in order to fight against discouragement.
Sometimes it takes praying multiple times about the same thing that you feel discouraged about before you feel faith and hope again. The point is not to avoid all discouragement but to keep going back to God when you are experiencing it.
It can be easy for me to see prayer as a time to emote and indulge emotionally, instead of a time to express how I feel while choosing to trust God and follow him. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39-46 NLT) is a great example of this. Jesus was emotionally vulnerable with God but left his prayer choosing to obey God instead of giving in to his emotions.
Pause and reflect
- What emotions do we need to be honest with God about?
- How can we start leaving our prayer times with clear decisions to obey God instead of giving in to our discouragement?
Look out for who God is putting in our lives
But God, who comforts the discouraged, comforted us by the arrival of Titus
2 Corinthians 7:6 NASB
Along with prayer, God provides relationships that help us overcome discouragement. When we are discouraged, it can be easy to want to isolate ourselves and hide our discouragement. But when we don’t talk about the unbelief, sadness, or anxiety we feel around the things we are discouraged about, we won’t be able to get the comfort we need from people.
We need perspective, encouragement, motivation and love from people during these times. Who can we talk to about your discouragement? God will look for ways to encourage and comfort us when we are discouraged.
One of the ways He does so is by the people He puts into our lives to help us navigate the challenging times. In this passage, Paul makes it clear that God put Titus in his life at that specific moment in time to help him find comfort.
Pause and reflect
- What friend can you reach out to as you are in need of comfort?
- Who do you know that needs comfort that you can be a Titus for?
While life will undoubtedly allow us to go through challenging and discouraging times, when we choose to be close to God through it, we don’t have to lose heart.
Instead, it can be an opportunity to renew and deepen our faith in God, believing that He is still working out for things to turn out for our best in the long run (Romans 8:29-30 Voice). When we choose to fight for our faith and turn to God for comfort in difficult times, we will be able to inspire others to learn how to do the same (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT)
Here are further resources that will help us overcome our discouragement and learn to believe again.
- Zachariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-17)
- Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2)
- Gideon (Judges 6-8)
- The Paralyzed Man (John 5:1-15)
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